Skipper McKenna justifies Curtis blackout

Curtis Cup skipper Mary McKenna believes Ireland's new generation of stars can challenge world No 1 Lorena Ochoa.

But the Donabate legend feels that the absence of Irish players from the Curtis Cup side to face the USA at St Andrews in May is totally justified.

For the first time in a decade, no Irishwoman has made a Curtis Cup team bidding to stop the US winning six in a row.

Yet skipper McKenna, who earned a record nine Curtis Cup caps for Great Britain and Ireland, is convinced that the future is bright with starlets such as twins Lisa and Leona Maguire twins or Royal Portrush's Stephanie Meadow waiting in the wings.

Justifying an eight-strong side featuring four Scots, three English and one Welsh player, McKenna said: "It's very simple. Nobody in Ireland has done enough to warrant their place.

"Tara Delaney and Danielle McVeigh would have been in contention but they just haven't performed.

"We had a panel of 15 to choose from and I will always go for the best team, even if that means picking eight Irish or eight Scottish of eight Welsh players.

"Irish golf is just going through a bit of a low period. We had four on the team the last time and we've lost two of them to the pro ranks.

"I think we have an absolutely smashing team with a great blend of youth and players who play in the US and they won't be frightened by the Americans."

Scotland's Carly Booth, 15, will become the youngest Great Britain and Ireland player in the history of the matches.

But McKenna is predicting a new, golden age for Irish women's golf over the next few years.

McKenna added: "I have no doubt that in another two years, we are going to have the twins in contention for a place on the Curtis Cup team and maybe next year for the Vagliano Trophy."

Still just 13, the Maguire twins have been tipped for the very top since they burst onto the scene four years ago.

And McKenna see no reason why they can't go on and challenge players like Mexican Ochoa, who is dominating women's professional golf.

She said: "Lorena Ochoa is just phenomenal, a bit like Tiger. What sets players like that apart is their confidence and self-belief.

"But I believe we have players who can go on to try and challenge players like Ochoa. We have the Maguire twins there and Stephanie Meadow is there too.

"They are our three biggest hopes. I really rate them highly and within a year or two they will be well in contention for Curtis Cup.

"We have lost a few of our top players in Ireland and we are at a lowish ebb. But there is huge work being done at Junior level and we have just got to be patient and hope that the girls will come through."

Royal County Down's McVeigh is fourth reserve for this year's matches.

GB&I: Liz Bennett (Eng), Carly Booth (Sco), Krystle Caithness (Sco), Jodi Ewart (Eng), Breanne Loucks (Wal) Florentyna Parker (Eng), Michele Thomson (Sco), Sally Watson (Sco).

Reserves: Kerry Smith (Eng), Sahra Hassan (Wal), Rachel Jennings (Eng), Danielle McVeigh (Ire).